Spicy Bulgur Pilaf with Tomatoes, Red Pepper Paste and Mint

  • 1/4 cup uncooked vermicelli (broken into 1/2 inch lengths)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp. Turkish red pepper paste (or tomato paste)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (cored and diced)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup # 2 Medium or #3 Coarse Bulgur wheat
  • 1 tsp. Marash biber (or other red pepper flakes)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 tsp. sumac (ground)
  • 1 tsp. cumin (freshly ground)
  • 1 tsp. dried mint (or 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish (if desired)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over a medium flame. Add the uncooked, broken vermicelli and saute, stirring continuously, until it changes color. Lower the heat if necessary – do not let the vermicelli burn. When lightly browned, remove vermicelli from the heat, scrape it onto a small plate and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Do not let them brown. Add the spoonful of red pepper or tomato paste and stir for 1 minute, blending it with the onion-garlic mixture. Add the tomatoes and saute, stirring, for an additional 4 to 5 minutes until they are cooked through.
  3. Pour in the water and add the bulgur, browned vermicelli, red pepper flakes, black pepper, sumac, cumin, mint and salt to the pot. Stir well; bring to a gentle boil, then immediately reduce the flame to its lowest setting and cover the pot. Let the bulgur simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooking to keep the grains from sticking together. (If the bulgur is not sufficiently cooked at the end of 15 minutes, add another 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer, covered.)
  4. When all the water has been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat. Place a clean dishtowel between the pot and the lid. Let the bulgur sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.